Encouraging lifestyle behaviour change in mild cognitive impairment patients: development of appropriate educational material

Neville CE, McCourt HJ, McKinley MC, Lowis C, Barrett SL, McGuinness B, Todd S, Lawlor B, Gibb M, Coen RF, Passmore AP, Woodside JV.
Aging Ment Health. 2013;17(3):276-86. doi: 10.1080/13607863.2013.768210. Epub 2013 Feb 12.

Centre for Public Health, School of Medicine, Dentistry and Biomedical Sciences, Institute of Clinical Science B, Queen’s University Belfast, Belfast, United Kingdom.

OBJECTIVES:  A healthy lifestyle may help maintain cognitive function and reduce the risk of developing dementia. This study employed a focus group approach in order to gain insight into opinions of mild cognitive impairment (MCI) patients, caregivers (CG) and health professionals (HP) regarding lifestyle and its relationship with cognition. The qualitative data were used to design, develop and pilot test educational material (EM) to help encourage lifestyle behaviour change.

METHOD:  Data gathering phase: structured interviews were conducted with HP (n = 10), and focus groups with MCI patients (n = 24) and CG (n = 12). EM was developed and pilot tested with a new group of MCI patients (n = 21) and CG (n = 6).

RESULTS:   HP alluded to the lack of clinical trial evidence for a lifestyle and MCI risk link. Although they felt that lifestyle modifications should be recommended to MCI patients, they appeared hesitant in communicating this information and discussions were often patient-driven. MCI patients lacked awareness of the lifestyle cognition link. Participants preferred EM to be concise, eye-catching and in written format, with personal delivery of information favoured. Most pilot testers approved of the EM but were heterogeneous in terms of lifestyle, willingness to change and support needed to change.

CONCLUSION:  MCI patients need to be made more aware of the importance of lifestyle for cognition. EM such as those developed here, which are specifically tailored for this population would be valuable for HP who, currently, appear reticent in initiating lifestyle-related discussions. Following further evaluation, the EM could be used in health promotion activities targeting MCI patients.